In April, it will have been a year since it became a legal requirement for all dogs to have a microchip – something that’s helped to reunite 75% of missing pooches with their owners. We explore the case around whether similar measures should be put in place for cats.
How can a microchip help?
Petlog, the UK's largest lost-and-found database for microchipped pets, recently revealed that more than 100,000 cats go missing each year – which means that more than a quarter of all cat owners will experience the heart-wrenching fear of a lost pet. However, only 45% of felines are safely reunited with their owners, compared with 75% of dogs (which are now almost all microchipped). When you consider that microchipped cats are a whopping 2,000 times more likely to be reunited with their families, the value of this little device becomes clear.
Petplan vet Brian Faulkner’s story:
‘A microchip could even help to save your pet’s life’
‘Throughout my career, injured pets have been brought into the surgery by people who have found them, but – because they don’t have a microchip – we have no way of identifying them,’ Brian says. ‘As we’re unable to contact the owners, we’re often left in an incredibly difficult position: while we can alleviate a pet’s pain, we haven’t been given authority to perform more advanced treatments such as operating on it. It’s really distressing for the pet – and for us.
‘It became compulsory to microchip dogs in England in April 2016, but I’d urge all cat owners to get their pet chipped as soon as possible. Cats are more free-roaming than dogs and this means they have a greater chance of getting lost or separated, which also increases their risk of injury from incidents such as traffic accidents.’
How does it work?
‘Contrary to what some people believe, microchips don’t work as a tracker. You won’t be able to see where your pet is at all times,’ Brian explains. ‘Instead, think of a microchip as a number plate. It simply holds an ID number that links to your information on a database. It doesn’t emit a signal, and there’s no way for anyone else to discover your cat’s location through it either.’
Another misconception is that your pet will be hurt by the microchipping procedure, but that’s not the case. Implanting the chip (the size of a grain of rice) under your pet’s skin doesn’t even require an anaesthetic, and is just as quick and simple as a vaccination.
‘Keep in mind that if it did negatively affect your pet’s health in any way, the compulsory law for dogs would never have been passed,’ Brian says. ‘The most important thing to remember is to keep your details, including your current address and phone numbers, updated on your chip’s database. This will ensure that, if your cat does go missing, you can be reunited.’
An owner’s story: ‘Double-check your details yearly’
Sharon Stammers’ cat, Cookie, went missing for three weeks. She and her family put up posters around their local London neighbourhood but, when that yielded no results, they began to lose hope.
‘That was when the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home got in contact to say that Cookie had been found,’ Sharon says. ‘And we were actually amazingly lucky – although Cookie was microchipped when she was a kitten, our contact details weren’t up to date. We’d just made the assumption that our information would be there and didn’t give it much thought,’ she explains. ‘Thankfully, Battersea managed to track down the vet practice that implanted the microchip, who looked on their own records and eventually traced Cookie back to us.
‘I’d urge all cat owners to get their pet microchipped, and to then check that the right details are registered to the chip at least once a year. We were just incredibly fortunate to get Cookie back; not everyone might be as lucky.’
How you can keep your cat safe
Whether microchipping your feline friend becomes compulsory or not, it’s easy to get the procedure done – your vet or local Pets at Home store will have trained staff who can fit microchips, and it only costs around £20. You can also visit any of the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home branches, where you’ll be able to get your cat chipped in return for a donation of any size.